Going to France and just visiting Paris is like going to a french bakery and eating only Croissant.When it comes to visiting France, Paris is at the top of the list for many travelers and for a very good reason.But France is not only Paris, there is so much to see and do in France as a country.We didn’t want to make our France trip just about Paris, so we added French Riviera to our itinerary too.Here are the few highlights from the trip.
Day 1 – Catacombs
Started our trip in the city of love.Landed at Paris-Charles De Gaulle (I hate this airport.Its so complicated and big) and straight away went to hotel.The airport is pretty well connected to the entire city by train.We stayed in Holiday Inn Paris Saint Germain des Pres.Hotel had a pretty good location.Everything was pretty much walkable. We reached in the afternoon and were badly jet legged.Took some rest and straightaway went for Catacombs.
Catacomb is basically a place where the bones of dead people are placed.At first, it looks gross but it has lot of history attached to it.
Day 2 – Palace of Versailles,Paris Night Tour and Moulin Rouge
Started our day early.It was going to be a long day.Went to a bakery for an authentic french breakfast – Croissant and coffee.After breakfast, we took train to Palace of Versailles.It is a grand palace and very crowded.Get ticket online to save some time.The palace is huge and it easily takes 4-5 hours to visit all the exhibitions.The royal residence takes you back in french history and the life of royalty.
At night, we booked a Paris by night Illumination and Moulin Rouge show with France tourism.Paris looks completely fascinating at night when all the legendary landmarks and monuments are lit up.We were on a double decker bus which showed us all the highlights in the city and dropped us at Moulin Rouge for the show at 9:30 pm.This is a good way to learn about the city. Moulin Rouge was glamorous.I would say cirque du soleil shows are better but Moulin Rouge had sexiness and oomph in it.
Day 3 – Reims & Montparnasse Tower
Rented car for a day and drove to Reims to visit Champagne region in France.We booked Champagne Taittinger tour which is a renowned champagne house for custom tastings & guided tours of cellars carved from Roman mines.It was a very educational tour about champagne and they are one of the few houses left who uses traditional methods to produce champagne and store them in a limestone cave.
Montparnasse tower has best panoramic views of Paris.The sun setting over the city with glowing Eiffel Tower standing tall in the middle is the most amazing scenery to remember.
Day 4 – Louvre Museum and walk around Siene river
To be honest if you are thinking to cover the entire museum in one day, it is impossible.We started the exhibitions thinking that we will be able to cover everything in a day but that was a big mistake.We soon realized the mistake and did a smart thing.We searched over internet about the top things to see in the museum and followed the list.All the popular paintings and sculpture had huge line to get too.Here are some popular pieces you should see first and then spent your rest of the time in other exhibitions.
- Mona Lisa – This is the main reason why people visit Louvre.Expect long lines.It might take up to 45 mins to reach up to the painting and before you can see the painting you will be kicked out.
- The Winged Victory of Samothrace
- Psyche revived by Cupid’s Kiss
- The Venus De Milo
- The Raft of the Medusa
- Liberty Leading the people
- The Coronation of Napolean
- Sleeping Hermaphroditus
- I.M Pei’s Pyramid
- The Lamassu
- Michaelangelo’s The Dying slave and the rebellious slave
- Great Sphinx of Tannis
Day 5 – Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame,Saint Chapelle, Luxembourg Garden
Eiffel Tower is always busy if you want to take elevator to the top so buying tickets online will save you lot of time.I liked view much better from Montparnasse tower.
Notre Dame was closed due to fire so we went to nearby church – Saint Chapelle.It was a beautiful gothic style church with amazing interiors.
Luxembourg garden is the beautiful garden for a leisurely walk.There are lot of french style cafes around the garden.Try to walk in the neighborhood instead of taking uber.
French Riviera defines the term “exotic”.I am not sure which destination can be more exotic than French Riviera.Also known as Cote d’azur, the place is damn glamorous and spots take you to a whole new level.
We rented a car to explore the region which was fine but biggest mistake was we got a big car.The towns along Mediterranean coast have very narrow streets so parking is always a hassle.There are pros and cons for renting a car.Definitely, parking and traffic were biggest cons but because of car we could explore the region on our own without paying money to expensive tours.
Day 1 – Nice
A very touristy but beautiful town.The city has cute downtown with high end eateries.Food here is super expensive but amazing.
Day 2 – Grasse, Antibes,Cannes
Grasse is perfume capital of the world.Took a quick tour of Fragonard perfumerie. Its a hilly village with endless lavender fields.It is conveniently located between Nice and Cannes so quick stop is worth it if you want to know about the fragrances and how perfumes are made.
Antibes is a very laid back town.Not much to do in the town but you can stroll around the coastline.
The glamorous Cannes with turquoise ocean in the background is the most alluring thing in Cote d’azur. With its ports full of mega yachts and waterfront streets full of Ferraris and Mercedes, streets full of glittery world renowned brands will make you feel like you are in some wealthy wonderland.The stroll on seaside promenade is a must do.
Day 3 – Eze, Monaco and Verdon Gorge
To be honest, drive to Verdon Gorge is quite long with not much pay off.So one can easily omit it from the itinerary.
The drive to Eze is beautiful but scary on narrow streets which takes you back in the medieval time.The stone buildings, narrow winding alleys and dramatic Mediterranean backdrop make this small village seem like a movie set.
Monaco is the vacation destination for ultra rich.Its surrounded by France and Italy.The sea facing houses and condos with swimming pool on terrace makes you feel jealous.One can easily spend couple of hours in the downtown – Grand prix route,Monte Carlo casino to name some.